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Exclusive: Humboldt's Secret Hart Attack (We Do Not Consent blog)

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GuvWurld Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-06-09 09:37 PM
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Exclusive: Humboldt's Secret Hart Attack (We Do Not Consent blog)
Originally blogged at We Do Not Consent:
http://wedonotconsent.blogspot.com/2009/01/exclusive-hu...

Exclusive: Humboldt's Secret Hart Attack
By Dave Berman
1/6/09

On December 17 the We Do Not Consent blog broke the story that Humboldt, CA Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich had announced to the Election Advisory Committee (EAC) the previous evening her intention to replace Diebold/Premier "election" junk with comparable secret vote counting computers from Hart InterCivic. I've posted a few times about the need for a public due diligence process around multiple Diebold alternatives, including a letter published in the Eureka Times-Standard and another that ran in the North Coast Journal. Both letters were based on the recent news of a Diebold programming failure that secretly deleted 197 ballots and led to inaccurate election results being certified here. Both letters were also written prior to learning about Crnich's proposed switch. Efforts to spark such a community dialog are happening today in multiple forms, and on the heels of a major new development.

In a phone call this morning, Crnich acknowledged that in November she discussed the planned changes with a small number of volunteers who were asked to keep it a secret. Parke Bostrom is an EAC and ETP (Election Transparency Project) volunteer who has also worked closely with Crnich as an election day poll worker and overall observer of the Elections Department. Yesterday Bostrom posted The "Spend Pork Wisely" Petition that begins:
Petition calling for public discussion of Humboldt County's plan to purchase $600,000 of Hart InterCivic eScan election equipment.

WHEREAS, at the November 18th monthly public meeting of the Humboldt Election Advisory Committee, County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich announced the Elections Office's plan to stop using the county's Diebold/Premier AccuVote/GEMS elections equipment and replace it with similar Hart InterCivic eScan equipment.

And WHEREAS, County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters Crnich then asked those attending the public meeting to keep this plan secret until at least mid-December, thereby minimizing the opportunity for public discussion of the plan prior to receiving approval for the plan from the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.
The full petition text appears here and at the bottom of this post. Crnich has now tried twice without success to get the matter on the Supes agenda. As I noted on 12/17, her first attempt was for the December 16 Supes meeting, which would have done the deed even before fully revealing the secret at that night's EAC meeting - at which Crnich also said she had hoped to take delivery of nearly 80 new machines the next day in order to get a $28,000 discount offered by Hart if the deal could be completed by year's end.

The Humboldt Board of Supervisors met again today without taking this on, leaving us planning for a January 13 agenda item, but taking action now with outreach to media as well as the Supes and various local City Councils, whose members we hope will encourage the Supes to have a public process. Eureka Councilman Larry Glass encouraged such an approach when I spoke with him this past Saturday evening in his Old Town music store. (Also worth noting: Glass recently made news for heroically rescuing a would-be suicide jumper into Humboldt Bay).

My 12/17 exclusive landed as the top story on that day's Daily Voting News, compiled by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org. Two days later, BradBlog quoted me heavily and advanced Gideon's observation that Hart InterCivic had withdrawn from the federal certification process. Bostrom's petition puts a fine point on this:
And WHEREAS, the version of the Hart InterCivic eScan equipment the Elections Office is planning to purchase is also an old version of the eScan system, as Hart InterCivic has been unable to receive certification from the California Secretary of State for the most recent and up-to-date version of the eScan system.

And WHEREAS, Hart InterCivic has withdrawn from the certification process and is not currently seeking certification for use in California of the most recent and up-to-date version of the eScan system; and consequently, so long as Hart InterCivic remains disengaged from the certification process, it will not be legally possible to apply any software upgrades that may be necessary to prevent future invisible failures of the old version of the eScan system
The Times-Standard has followed up twice since I broke the story of the proposed switch. In a quote of note in the December 22 article (archive), Crnich says, "This plan that is proposed pre-dates any of the problems that were found to exist in this election."

The same article also reports Congressman Mike Thompson sent a letter to "federal elections officials," about his concern over the invisible failure. I wonder if he knew then or even knows now that some votes for him were among those deleted (as Bostrom notes in the petition). I am awaiting a call back from Thompson's office in Eureka.

The T-S followed up again on December 29 (archive) reporting Thompson's letter got the attention of Election Assistance Commission Chairwoman Rosemary Rodriguez, who claims her horribly ineffectual board "doesn't have the authority or capacity to launch independent investigations." She does pledge, and seem to want a gold star for, her intention to "disseminate the contents of the Humboldt County report to elections officials from coast to coast {to} prevent similar problems from occurring elsewhere." What a good idea. If only it weren't the repeatedly unfulfilled yet HAVA-mandated purpose for her existence.

Also check out the first half of hour three of the December 19 Peter B. Collins show when I called in to discuss all this with PBC, Brad Friedman, and Harvey Wasserman.

Happenings in the Humboldt Elections Department have been making national news for a while now. Generally speaking, Crnich has earned lots of fans for her willingness to work with the great team of citizen volunteers that have made the ETP happen. In addition to Bostrom, credit, praise and thanks also rightfully go to Kevin Collins, Mitch Trachtenberg, and Tom Pinto.

With such involved interactions and access to Crnich, these guys have gained her trust and confidence, resulting in candid sharing of information. However, Crnich's request for secrecy, and the volunteers' granting of this request, is not the kind of transparency we deserve from our local government, particularly in the context of a so-called Election Transparency Project.

Asked to comment on Bostrom's petition, Crnich told me she is "ready to move forward," and the idea of slowing down for a public due diligence process would be a "serious impediment to progress" because it puts needed training on hold. While Crnich calls the lateral move from Diebold to Hart "progress," I see it as a false alternative.

I have been unable to reach Collins and Trachtenberg for comment on the petition and secrecy issue, however, Pinto provided the following in an e-mail early this morning:
In my opinion, citizens are being offered a disappointing menu of choices with regards to election systems. I really hope the CA Sec. of State will offer us the option of using an election system that incorporates open source technology. However, that option is not being offered at this time.

I think that CC {Carolyn Crnich} has made an acceptable decision to purchase Hart eScan based upon what is being offered by the State and based upon the age and problems of our existing software. I think CC has researched it sufficiently and she expects it to save {Elections Manager} Kelly {Sanders} a HUGE amount of time. I'm glad the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project is in place to the catch poll worker errors and software bugs (regardless of which proprietary system we're using). I hope that more citizen volunteers will participate in the next audit.

I think CC has done a first rate job of reaching out to citizens to participate. She has given interested persons, such as the ones who attend the EAC meetings, sufficient opportunity to voice any concerns about the eScan. She has also invited the public to inspect these machines. I respectfully question whether there is sufficient need for creating a formal time period for additional public participation. I also doubt that the conclusion of such a comment period would result in any difference the current plan. However, I do not object to the creation of formal public comment period.
I concede that I missed several consecutive EAC meetings at which Hart equipment was apparently discussed and even demonstrated (Crnich even chided me for this when I arrived at the December meeting). However, I do not think that these small and largely undocumented meetings, of a committee with no formal mandate from the county, constitute a sufficient public process. Pinto notes that "interested persons" have been given an opportunity to weigh in, but not enough has been done to make the community at large aware of the proposed switch to Hart, let alone interested.

Bostrom's petition at least seeks to bridge this gap, also noting that the contract for the proposed switch to Hart has not even been made public yet. That aspect alone deserves rigorous public scrutiny. I'll have more on this developing story in the days ahead.

* * *
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/humboldt2009/index.h...

Petition calling for public discussion of Humboldt County's plan to purchase $600,000 of Hart InterCivic eScan election equipment.

WHEREAS, at the November 18th monthly public meeting of the Humboldt Election Advisory Committee, County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich announced the Elections Office's plan to stop using the county's Diebold/Premier AccuVote/GEMS elections equipment and replace it with similar Hart InterCivic eScan equipment.

And WHEREAS, County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters Crnich then asked those attending the public meeting to keep this plan secret until at least mid-December, thereby minimizing the opportunity for public discussion of the plan prior to receiving approval for the plan from the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

And WHEREAS, on the evening of December 16th, at the next monthly public meeting of the Humboldt Election Advisory Committee, after 197 ballots had been invisibly deleted by an invisible failure of the AccuVote/GEMS equipment, when asked what the planned response to the invisible AccuVote/GEMS failure would be, and having been bumped from the overfull agenda of the Board of Supervisors meeting that very morning, County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters Crnich publicly announced the plan to purchase the eScan equipment.

And WHEREAS, the invisible failure of the AccuVote/GEMS system deleted 114 votes for Representative Mike Thompson; 102 votes for Assembly Member Wes Chesbro; 76 and 148 votes for, respectively, City of Eureka Councilpersons Linda Atkins and Frank Jager; 110 and 84 votes, respectively, for and against California's Proposition 8; 83 and 113 votes, respectively, for and against City of Eureka Measure J.

And WHEREAS, the invisible failure of the AccuVote/GEMS system is believed to be due to a bug in the old version of the GEMS equipment that is claimed to be fixed in the most recent version of GEMS available for use in California.

And WHEREAS, the version of the Hart InterCivic eScan equipment the Elections Office is planning to purchase is also an old version of the eScan system, as Hart InterCivic has been unable to receive certification from the California Secretary of State for the most recent and up-to-date version of the eScan system.

And WHEREAS, Hart InterCivic has withdrawn from the certification process and is not currently seeking certification for use in California of the most recent and up-to-date version of the eScan system; and consequently, so long as Hart InterCivic remains disengaged from the certification process, it will not be legally possible to apply any software upgrades that may be necessary to prevent future invisible failures of the old version of the eScan system.

And WHEREAS, the cost to purchase the old version of the eScan system will be in excess of $600,000 of taxpayer money.

And WHEREAS, as of January 5, 2009, the proposed contract with Hart InterCivic has not been publicly disclosed, and consequently there has not been any open public discussion of the specific plan to purchase the old version of the eScan system.

And WHEREAS, open public discussion of the plan to purchase the old version the eScan system is a reasonable step to take to reduce the likelihood of future invisible failures of election systems.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, the undersigned concerned citizens call upon County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich, and also upon the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to take the following steps to promote public confidence in the outcome of future elections in Humboldt County:

1. The county SHALL issue a press release containing the proposed contract with Hart InterCivic and inviting the public to submit written questions, comments and concerns regarding the planned purchase and use of the old version of the Hart InterCivic eScan system.

2. Following the publication of the press release, the county SHALL give the public at least 2 weeks to submit such written questions, comments, and concerns.

3. At the end of the submission period, the county SHALL publish, in an electronic format, all the questions, comments and concerns submitted by the public.

4. Within a reasonable period of time thereafter, the county SHALL prepare written responses to all the public's questions, comments, and concerns. In preparing said responses, the county may, if it so wishes, consult with Hart InterCivic and/or any other parties.

5. When the county finishes preparing written responses, the county SHALL publish, in an electronic format, the public's questions, comments and concerns together with the county's responses.

6. Following the publication of the county's responses, there SHALL be a period of reflection. The period of reflection of SHALL be at least one week long.

7. Prior to the conclusion of the period of reflection, the Board of Supervisors SHALL NOT approve the purchase of the old version of the eScan system.

8. After the conclusion of the period of reflection, the Board of Supervisors may create an agenda item for an open public hearing of the request to purchase the old version of the eScan system.

9. Additionally, if the Board of Supervisors is interested in considering, in a thoughtful and deliberate manner, alternatives other than the purchase of the old version of the eScan system, we recommend to the board that now, prior to the purchase of the old version of the eScan system, is a very good time to consider any such alternatives.

Sign the Petition
# # #


Permalink:
http://wedonotconsent.blogspot.com/2009/01/exclusive-hu...
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SnoopDog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 12:01 AM
Response to Original message
1. k + r
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 12:36 AM
Response to Original message
2. I thought the new Diebold version still had the flaw
of disappearing votes?

Also, I don't see how the registrar can purchase Hart given that the new system won't be certified.

***Can you request all correspondence between the registrar and Hart Intercivic, and ask specifically the certification status and level for the version being considered?

If registrar claims that HI is in the process of certification, ask for letter of application by Hart for that.

In North Carolina, we had a county nearly purchase Hart and the vendor wasn't even certified to
do business in our state. HI also claimed to be in process of certification, so we asked for letter of application to EAC, and for status.

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GuvWurld Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 01:32 AM
Response to Reply #2
7. a bit perplexing huh?
which versions have which flaws and fixes - its all smoke and mirrors. what's a little secret vote counting among friends, right?

registrar is not claiming Hart is in certification process. not quoted above, but likely to be in my next piece, she told me the federal EAC wants to make new rules for certification testing in cooperation with Secretaries of State and local election administrators, so nothing has been certified in over a year and the "independent testing authorities" are waiting for new guidelines. granted, this is not the registrar's fault, but it does further make a mockery of what's available now, and the idea that any of it can ever be ultimately improved, to the point where no further improvements would be possible or necessary. so all the while, we knowingly use junk. this is the naked reality when the curtain has been pulled back, as I believe it has been.
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 11:05 AM
Response to Reply #7
10. then I would argue that buying Hart makes no sense since it may not pass certification
Keep the devil you know unless you are choosing a clear improvement.

Or hand count.
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 01:03 AM
Response to Original message
3. Crnich is begging to be called to task.
Accommodate her.

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GuvWurld Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 01:17 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. did I stutter? n/t
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emlev Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 01:12 AM
Response to Original message
4. Is the petition for Humboldt voters only? n/t
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GuvWurld Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 01:16 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. No. n/t
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emlev Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 01:49 AM
Response to Reply #5
8. Well, then, I'm in. n/t
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autorank Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 09:02 AM
Response to Original message
9. The Crinch that Stole Christmaas (in secret)
Great work out there. What a measure this is of the nation when someplace as liberal as
Humboldt has a process that's as repressive, at times as the less "progressive" areas. The
problems with elections from a technical standpoint are well defined and fixable. Their continuation,
at this point, should be assumed to be a matter of choice by this in charge.
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Land Shark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 06:01 PM
Response to Original message
11. K&R
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-07-09 07:06 PM
Response to Original message
12. We had Hart Intercivic DREs in Catawba CO North Carolina until 2006
I would guess that they might have used the Hart Optical scanners for absentee ballots.

2004 - North Carolina study shows that Catawba County's switch to paperless voting coincides
with jump in undervote rate of 40% - 130% higher than it was in 2000.


Duke University Computer Scientist and E-Voting Critic Dr. Justin Moore:

"This is EXACTLY in line with the statistics that the CalTech/MIT
study reported back in 2001.

If Catawba County was still using optical scan machines in 2004 and
had the same undervote rate as in 2000, Mr. Troxler would have picked up
another 500 - 600 votes over Mr. Cobb. While this wouldn't have negated
the issue that the number of votes lost by that one machine in Carteret
was larger than Mr. Troxler's margin of victory, it means that Mr. Cobb
would need to have received over 80% of the lost votes to beat Mr.
Troxler. Given this, perhaps Mr. Cobb would have conceded earlier and
the state could have avoided a protracted and expensive legal battle.

Also, I noticed that Catawba County is the home county of Senator
Allran. The undervote percentage in his contest increased by 2% of the
total votes cast (on par with other contests in the above chart).

Senator Allran: if Catawba County was still using optical scan in
2004, it is likely that you would have picked up another 1,200 votes."


2000 results. link http://www.cs.duke.edu/~justin/voting/dat/2000/CATAWBA....
2004 results. link http://www.cs.duke.edu/~justin/voting/dat/2004/CATAWBA....




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